Looking for a home in the land that minimalism forgot?
Foreigners are now allowed to own property in Russia. Investment buyers may, however, face additional tax payments when they come to sell the property.
The simple rule in Moscow is the more central the area then the more expensive the homes. The current average price for a home across Moscow is is £1,725 per square metre, but high-end, modern penthouses or prestige properties on the Golden Mile in Arbat, Kropotkinskaya right at the heart of the city can reach eye-watering prices.
Life exits beyond the Outer Ring, and indeed prices and rents are cheaper but these are areas of spectacularly unpreposessing apartment blocks, smog-bound roads and lengthy commutes.
When looking to buy or rent in Moscow it is as well to be aware of the various descriptions that may be used. Apartments sometimes described as ‘needing renovation' may be in very poor repair indeed. An apartment described as ‘Russian renovated' may mean an apartment has had kitchen and bathroom fixtures replaced but not necessarily with western standard brands. Even an apartment described as ‘western renovated' might offer a colour scheme that is a good deal more lively than you are comfortable with. Think Ikea with a headache.
Properties that need renovation are often priced at a third the value of a renovated property.
The disparity in quality and interior design choices is mirrored in the range of residential architecture to be found throughout the city.
Moscow is a city of apartments, varying from Tsarist-era aristocracy dwellings through Soviet and post Soviet era brutalism - like the three residential towers that form part of Stalin's Seven Sisters - to brand spanking new modern palaces of glass and steel. Of course everybody, but everybody, who is anybody slopes off to their dacha in the country come the favourable weather.
Pre-revolutionary buildings: Built before the October revolution of 1917, they are situated in the historical centre of the city. These houses stand out because of their fine architecture, beautiful facades, high ceilings and antique entrances. This is old Russia at its most grand, however, some earlier twentieth century buildings were constructed with wood in their foundations, which has since rotted. Local sources suggest up to two-thirds of buildings in central Moscow may be considered dilapidated.
Mansions: The characterful alternative to the standard block, Moscow mansions are smaller pre-Revolutionary houses that once belonged to wealthy Muscovites. Mansions are rarely higher than four storeys, boast wonderful original features and will generally house one or two apartments on each floor.
Stalin-period buildings: Uglier than a box of dead frogs, these relics of the Stalin era are monumental concrete boxes, which can nevertheless offer spacious, and comfortable accommodation.
Stalin skyscrapers: Moscow's famous Seven Sisters dominate the city skyline. Three of the statuesque siblings are residential and offer jaw-dropping views and impressive entrances.
Post-Stalin period buildings: Not as monumental as the Stalin-era versions, and a little more bijoux in terms of living space. Not homes to die for, but comfortable enough
Block buildings: These largely prefabricated buildings are largely found outside the Outer Ring and provide unspectacular but affordable accommodation for those who need it.
Ministerial buildings: These are the distinctive yellow-brick high-rises that were built for the employees of the various ministries and state organizations in the late 1970s-1980s and offered elite accommodation for the high-level Communist Party and Soviet officials. Consequently they enjoy grander proportions than similar era workers' accommodation and more in the way of built in security.
Modern developments: Moscow's new wave of residential complexes are the most luxurious accommodation available in the city today. Standards obviously vary, but homes come with all mod cons, and a wide array of useful modern amenities - underground garages, internet connection, gyms, swimming pools, panic rooms - you name it.
With thanks to property agents Evans (see link below).
Say what you like about totalitarian states - at least they get the trains running on time. That jaded truism could have been invented for Moscow, which enjoys a subway train system admired the world over.
Air: Moscow is around three hours flight time from the UK. Five airports exist outside the Moscow version of the M25. Four of the five link Moscow to domestic destinations or those capitals once part of the greater Soviet sprawl. Sheremetevo-2 is the airport served by UK and other Western couriers, and is considered unspectacular in terms of appearance and facilities.
Metro: in central Moscow you are rarely more than ten minutes in any direction from a Metro station. For the most part, trains are exceptionally frequent, and punctual. Try not to trip over the awe struck trainspotters and architecture students hogging the platforms just to take in the splendour of some of the exceptionally attractive underground stations.
Buse, trolleybus and tram: beyond the limits of the Metro system the bus, trolleybus and tram take over duties. Tickets are cheap and can generally be purchased from the driver. Recently fare dogers have become the target of a crack down and those not in possession of a valid ticket may find themselves (literally) being kicked off a vehicle by a security guard armed with tear gas.
Taxi: if you are going to use one of the city's omnipresent taxis it is better to agree a price beforehand. Some knowledge of Russian may help you get the best deal, but for the most part the Moscow cabbie is flexible (with a little financial inducement), cheap and easy to find. As with every country, care should be taken when travelling alone. Only get into a car with a driver with whom you are happy to travel.
Car: most of the big name car hire firms are available. Roads tend to be fine closer to the centre of town then deteriorate in the outer areas. Russian drivers tend towards the unpredictable. A Siberian railway worker was recently convicted of causing a regional governor's death by not moving out of the way of the governor's speeding limo. The railway worker was later released after an outpouring of public support and a series of street protests.
On foot: most of the things you could want to see in central Moscow are within easy walking distance of each other. If you are wishing to walk simply for pleasure then the outer rings of the city offer the most opportunities for an uninterrupted stroll.
Moscow is not the most focussed city in terms of aiding wheelchair users or those with other disabilities in getting around. People will want to help but not know how, and ramps and special access facilities are largely missing.
POLICE & CUSTOMS
There is a glut of anecdotal evidence to suggest that some customs officials and police still employ their own market economy - ie they ask for bribes. Cars with foreign number plates are apparently easy targets for harassment, as are individuals who do not look local. Lonely Planet has some useful advice on deterring overly officious officers of the law.